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Nucleoplasty Procedure Helps Relieve Back Pain

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RALEIGH — Chronic back pain does not just hurt, it can put your life on hold. Many people turn to pain relievers and eventually surgery to try and ease the pain. When all that failed, Theresa Johnson underwent a new procedure called Nucleoplasty.

With the help of X-ray images, physicians place a needle into the affected disc. A wand is inserted through the needle, emitting heat energy that dissolves surrounding tissue. The tissue shrinks back from damaged disc walls, reducing the size of bulging discs and relieving nerve pressure in the lower back and the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg.

"It does not change the anatomy and/or mechanics, that we know of, of the spine," says neurologist Dr. Kenneth Alo. "It does not require cutting or open surgery because it can be done through a needle. And it allows the patient a very quick recovery time."

Six months after the procedure, Johnson says she is living pain-free and has regained her active lifestyle.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes and is done on an outpatient basis. It just received FDA approval, so it should start becoming widely available in the coming months. Right now it is intended for patients with contained herniated discs.


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